That time of year is creeping up on us once more. The mellowing of the bitter winter weather, the first sights of longer days, and flowers peeking up through grass thawed of frost. That’s right, spring is nearly here! And whilst for most of us in the UK, that means crawling out from our winter blanket hibernation and spotting the odd daffodil, in many parts of East Asia, this means cherry blossoms.
Korea is well known for its cherry blossom season. The stunning yet oh so fleeting views bring in thousands of tourists every year from inside and outside the country. The blossoms can be seen all over, but there’s one particular place that is well known for its cherry blossom extravaganza – Jinhae.
Located in Gyeongsangnam-do, Jinhae is the place to be for those who wish to experience the full beauty of cherry blossom seasons. Its yearly festival, the Jinhae Gunhangje Festival, is not just a small gathering of those wishing to see the sights. It first began as a memorial service for Yi Sun Sin, a naval admiral of the Joseon period. Nowadays, it has become much larger, enjoyed by over 2 million visitors a year.
This year’s festival is set to take place from the 31st March – 10th of April, which gives a small amount of leeway for when the trees will be completely in bloom. There are many events that take place over a ten day period, all themed around the trees. At the heart of it all is location that is most well known. The picturesque Yeojwacheon stream is lined with cherry blossoms trees; a veritable tunnel of pink petals. Many people take walks along the waterway day or night. When darkness has fallen, visitors will see the stream and Romance Bridge lit up with lights and projections, named the Starlight festival. There are plenty of other places to walk too, including a winding path up Animingogae Hill, giving a beautiful view out across the city from the top.
During the festival period, a station opens its doors for people to walk along the tracks. This is the famous cherry blossom road at Gyeonghwa Station and is always filled with countless visitors all flooding in to walk along the tracks surrounded by 800 metres of blossom tunnels.
For those who don’t want to spend their entire visit walking, the Jinhae Gunhangje Festival hosts a military parade and a victory parade, the latter of which recreates the victory march Admiral Yi Sun Sin held following a battle won in the Imjin war. The paraders were traditional clothes and give a small insight into the history of the area. And for nighttime revellers, the 4th April brings the Sokcheonhang Port Multimedia Fireworks Show, the sky lit up as another part of the Starlight festival.
Whilst the dates are already defined for this year’s festival, it’s safe to say that the blooming periods for cherry blossoms in Korea change all the time. For anyone that goes, it can be tricky to perfectly align a schedule with when the blossoms will be in full bloom. But for those who do, Jinhae is one of the best places to take in what the season is all about.